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Accessible cities university project - please help!

piajkjpiajkj Posts: 4Member Listener
Hi everyone,

I am a London uni student completing an extended university project on inaccessibility in urban landscapes. As someone who doesn't define as disabled (despite significant hearing loss throughout childhood), I would really like to make my work well and appropriately informed by people who do define as disabled. In fact, a large part of my work will be on why understanding and listening to the embodied experiences of disabled people (i.e. the way that inaccessible environments affect and reinforce disability and change the way you live and continue to interact with the environment) is essential when constructing cities. I am particularly looking for any detailed stories and experiences about occasions when you have had to put up with inaccessibility, or ridiculous attempts to make clearly inaccessible places seem accessible. 

If anyone does want to contribute anything, please please do! I have read so many of the posts on Scope and you are all such interactive people with lots to say so I hope you can help better inform my project.

Here are some questions that you could use to help. No need to answer them all if you don't have time :) 

1) Could you provide a bit of history/background about your disability?

2) What experiences have you had of inaccessibility in the urban landscape, both relating to buildings and also outside spaces? How did these make you feel? How did you react?

3) How did you or others justify the lack of accessible features or the presence of inaccessible features?

4) What do you think about the current accessible features of the built environment where you live? Do you think that to make environments equal and accessible, one must have an 'insiders'' perspective on what it is like to live daily life with disability?

5) Do you think you have developed certain personality traits/ are assigned certain social virtues as a result of your disability e.g. tolerance, thick skin, humour to cope with inaccessibility and/or ignorance?

6) Do you think that your sense of identity and belonging is affected by the built environment?

7) How do you feel like you have 'embodied' (i.e. incorporated into your own physical body and way of behaving) the inaccessible landscape? How do you think your own body affects the landscape in return?

8)  Finally, sort of related to question 4, do you think it should be the exclusive role of disabled people to research disability since they are the ones that experience it? Or should people who do not define as disabled also try to make space for conversation about disability?

Thank you in advance everyone :blush:

Pia 

Replies

  • WaylayWaylay Posts: 858Member Pioneering
    Cool, Pia! 
    1)History/background about disability?
    1.Mental health problems throughout life. Became much worse when I became physically disabled in 2008. Depression, anxiety, borderline PD, C-PTSD. Often agoraphobic, often can't answer phone, deal with email/texts, often get social anxiety.
    2.Chronic pain in L lower back, buttock, hip, thigh, with frequent spasms which are agonising and impair/remove mobility. Pain, stiffness, fatigue and spasms made worse by activity (sitting for 5-10mins, standing for 5mins, walking for any distance), and can last mins-9 days. Sciatica in L leg (occasionally in R); R hip and L shoulder go out of joint easily (ow!); knees b*ggered since childhood. Fatigue from pain is a problem. Mobility is very affected. Sometimes use wheelchair if someone will push, but usually just stay in. All disabilities fluctuate.

    Going to do this 1 question at a time, as having issues with computer.
  • WaylayWaylay Posts: 858Member Pioneering
    edited April 14
    2) What experiences have you had of inaccessibility in the urban landscape, both relating to buildings and also outside spaces? How did these make you feel? How did you react?
    Buildings: When in wheelchair, getting into buildings often difficult/impossible. Sometimes have to take the long way 'round to get to accessible entrance/lift, but extra movement = pain.
    Bathrooms downstairs/upstairs!
    Accessible bathrooms used for storage!!
    Lack of seating in long hallways (to rest) and in waiting areas (I end up on the floor sometimes if the wait will be longer than 5-10mins).
    Not enough space for queues in govt/council buildings, so queues go outdoors - in winter cold makes my back worse.
    Poor signage! I walk as little as possible - getting lost can mean a back spasm or pain spike.

    Outdoors: 
    Some of the above.
    Wide open spaces with cars + cyclists + pedestrians. Agoraphobia/being on lots of tramadol makes these very difficult for me to deal with.
    Dropped kerbs often still an inch above road, or missing entirely. 
    Narrow streets mean that people park on pavement - wheelchairs can't get by, having to twist and squirm past obstructions when walking is painful and tiring. 
    Lack of seating for resting, particularly at bus stops!
    Signage! See above.
    Bus stops too far from destination - e.g. local rail station was redesigned. Bus stops moved from directly in front of station to 70-350m away! Have to take taxi because can't walk from bus to station!
    Bus drivers ignoring it when people are nasty to disabled people (have been yelled at for sitting in disabled seats while spasming - I looked ok, apparently. Driver did nothing. Happened 3 times Can no longer use buses).
    Railway stations without wheelchair access from door to train.
    In particular, bus stops moved/closed or traffic detoured for construction. On the day of my PIP Tribunal, I had to get out of the taxi about 350m away from the court because of a detour!
    Bridge near me will be closed for several months for construction. 3.4 mile detour. Sometimes I can cycle, but not 3.4 miles! Luckily an activist group got the company to allow pedestrian and cycle traffic, as well as disability scooters, to cross almost all the time, as there is enough space most days during construction.
  • WaylayWaylay Posts: 858Member Pioneering
    3) How did you or others justify the lack of accessible features or the presence of inaccessible features?
    "We're working on it", "it's a historic area!", "there's no space for that kind of thing". So there's no space for me? "We never get disabled people here" HAHA.

    4) What do you think about the current accessible features of the built environment where you live? Do you think that to make environments equal and accessible, one must have an 'insiders'' perspective on what it is like to live daily life with disability?

    Pretty poor. Very old, very historic city, no will to change things (but also space is very limited).

    I suspect that an insider's perspective is necessary. Before I began using wheelchairs I had no idea about "dropped" kerbs, pavements used for parking, etc. Different disabilities limit people differently.
  • WaylayWaylay Posts: 858Member Pioneering
    5) Do you think you have developed certain personality traits/ are assigned certain social virtues as a result of your disability e.g. tolerance, thick skin, humour to cope with inaccessibility and/or ignorance?
    Yes! Especially in wheelchair. People assume I'm unintelligent, and direct questions/conversation to person pushing. 

    My sense of humour has expanded a lot. 

    People assume that disabilities don't vary. On a very rare good day, I once skipped to a friend's car (I paid for it later). Neighbour assumed I can always skip around and thought I was acting when I asked for help to get bag to door a few days later. 
    People have no idea about invisible disabilities, even though most disabilities are invisible!

    6) Do you think that your sense of identity and belonging is affected by the built environment? 
    When I can't get somewhere because it's inaccessible, or I'd have to spend more money to get there, yes.

    7) How do you feel like you have 'embodied' (i.e. incorporated into your own physical body and way of behaving) the inaccessible landscape? How do you think your own body affects the landscape in return?
    I almost always try not to show my pain, but in some situations I have to "act it out" in order to be able to use disabled services, which annoys me. Why should I have to act the way people expect in order to use the things designed to help me?
    I often simply don't do things if they involve something inaccessible. No seating in museum? Not going.

    8)  Finally, sort of related to question 4, do you think it should be the exclusive role of disabled people to research disability....
    No, definitely not! We need able people, as many of us are poor, unable to get those research jobs (for a variety of reasons), haven't had the chance to get the required education, can't work ATM, etc. Listen to us, tho. Seek us out. And help us to get that education, get hired, etc.

    Thanks!
  • piajkjpiajkj Posts: 4Member Listener
    Thank you for your absolutely amazing answers, Waylay! I really appreciate the time you have spent thinking about the questions :) I've definitely had to consider more about my own surroundings from your answers - I work with children and our kids' centre accessible toilet is ALWAYS used to store the bin bags that we can't put out on the street... I am definitely going to complain about that since we do have disabled children who come in regularly, and I now have a suspicion one girl avoids using the bathroom because she feels rude asking us to move them for her wheelchair...

    Would it be okay if I quote you as 'Waylay' in my essay? The work will be not be published outside of my uni!

    I am sorry for the pain you experience, but I am glad that (from the sound of it) your sense of humour and stoicism keeps you with it! 
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